Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Dramatic win seen once before

When it was over, somewhere we'd seen this act before. Ironically in the same round and pivotal Game Five. That it played out like a cardinal copy was even more eerie.

It was five years ago that the Rangers had rallied from an 0-2 deficit to tie the Eastern Conference Semifinal against heavily favored Buffalo. They brought the series back to Western New York even following the second greatest game we've ever seen. Game Three. Michal Rozsival in double overtime. Then, they held on for dear life to take Game Four, making Blueshirt Nation dream of an upset.

On May 5, 2007 the Blueshirts and Sabres played a beauty in Game Five. Henrik Lundqvist and Ryan Miller went toe to toe, matching save for save. For the game's first 57 minutes, nothing separated the New York clubs. Then, Martin Straka snuck a wrist shot past Miller touching off a mini-eruption at our house. Could it really be? Of course, we were facing Brian's team but this was Civil War. It was not quite Axl Rose and Slash in Guns 'N Roses heyday. But the hockey was epic.

When Straka scored, the way the game was being played it felt like they'd won. Of course, it didn't go as planned. Chris Drury ruined it when he tied the game with 7.7 seconds left, channeling Valeri Zelepukin. Then, a cruel ending occured when Maxim Afinogenov ripped a shot off Jed Ortmeyer past poor Lundqvist for a dramatic Sabres comeback win. A loss so deflating I hated Buffalo. In that one moment, everything changed.

The Sabres finished off the Rangers, hanging on for a 5-4 win in Game Six. A game they led throughout. But Jaromir Jagr kept bringing his team back. Straka scored again to slice the deficit to one with two minutes to go. The Garden was electric, almost willing the team to force overtime. They pushed till the bitter end. But Miller and Buffalo advanced to the Conference Finals a second consecutive year. That's how close we were. It just wasn't meant to be.

It was much of the same last night. Only the Caps got victimized. They had been outplayed for large portions but trailed by one. Then, tied it. A strange thing happened. For what was the biggest game the Rangers have played in two decades, the crowd was fairly quiet. They must've had the same pit in their stomachs I did in my seat. Nervous tension that somehow Washington was gonna find a way to win.

When John Carlson buried one past Lundqvist, it looked like that was it. The Caps protected the lead into the final frantic 60 seconds. Joel Ward high sticked Carl Hagelin with 21 seconds left. Suddenly, the powerless play came through thanks to Brad Richards, who ironically is now credited with the tying goal with 7.6 seconds remaining. Every Ranger fan knows what 7.7 means. 7.7 ain't 7.6. But it may as well be if Washington suffers the same fate we did. I'm begging the Blueshirts to take a page from Buffalo and finish them off tomorrow. Do not chance it.


May 5, 2007 EC Semis NYR at Buf Game 5

May 7, 2012 EC Semis Wsh at NYR Game 5

It's all too familiar. A late goal. A costly penalty. A power play winner early in sudden death that deflected off your own player. A helpless goalie. The similarities are striking. What does it all mean? Will May 7, 2012 go down in Ranger lore? It doesn't mean anything if they don't get it done.

To be continued...

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